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“The Long Blink” [prompt -> script -> video!]

“The Long Blink” [prompt -> script -> video!]

It’s summer, by the college calendar, time to feel the liberation from homework, enjoy the sunny 60-degree days in Portland . . . maybe even get back to a long neglected blog! And a blog is a great place to share some of the results of that hard work, especially when both of your majors and minor are all about writing. And now that I’m a senior, I’m doing a LOT of writing!

For example, as a sample, I submit my proudest achievement this term: a video of one of the more fun scripts I wrote and saw come to life in my New Script Development class (the advanced version of the Dramatic Writing classes at PSU). In this class, writers like me were challenged by some pretty wild writing prompts; and then future directors and actors in class helped us to develop these stories into something akin to a finished product. I can’t tell you how much fun and hard work this is–and I loved ever bit of it.  ^_^

The project I’m sharing today is called The Long Blink, and it came out of this rather crazy prompt (just in case you already saw the video and are wondering “wtf was all that about?”):

Put no more than four characters in one of the following settings (note the theme here … “small spaces“):  A closet, restaurant booth, bathroom, cockpit, confessional, elevator, hunting blind, cave, submarine, office cubicle, ferris wheel, tunnel, jail cell, bed, … you get the idea. The scene must additionally contain the following ingredients: A blind date, 3 days without sleep, a phobia, and a man covered in tattoos.

from Karin Magaldi, my awesome Dramatic Writing instructor

For some reason this didn’t seem enough punishment for one project, so I added a couple of limitations of my own:

  • I would try to use most, if not all of the settings given, and
  • I would do so without any narration–it would all be in the dialogue. Yikes.

Once we had something to work from (and wow, there were some fun scripts that came out of that), we were teamed up with a director and actors (fellow students in class desiring to act/direct) who rehearsed and helped us to develop our stories into something much more wonderful than we could have done on our own. Then, to celebrate this wonderful collaboration, we got to see our scripts read on stage in front of an audience (with all the changes there was simply no time to block, act and memorize them). But even as voice actors, these girls and guys put way more life into our words than I imagined.

But I’ll let you be the judge… =)

I present to you a stage reading of my script The Long Blink, wonderfully performed by Nick Nolan, Taryn Judah, Madison Shanley, and Drew Pierce. Filmed by Jerry Rous.

It’s still a work in progress, of course (especially the new ending), but we had a lot of fun getting it this far. I hope you enjoyed it.

Hopefully more soon!! ^_^

 

 
 

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Evernote is Awesome . . . And It’s Not

Evernote is Awesome . . . And It’s Not

I fell across a blog recently regarding the one software application I love–and hate–the most in the whole wide world: Evernote. If you haven’t heard of it, it might be worth a quick Google, especially if you’re thinking of going “paperless”. It seems to be the buzzword lately when it comes to Getting Organized (eek!).

The blog is by Mark Carrigan, who also has problems with Evernote; and he asks the question that got me thinking about my dependency on this most amazing–and frustrating–hunk of software: “What do you actually use Evernote for?“. The question intrigued me enough to write a reply … which I realized had quickly evolved into a blog. So I’ll post it here instead. It goes something like this:

evernoteI was sucked into Evernote for probably the same reason most of us were: it’s just a perfect way to get at things that used to be horrors to keep track of, because they were hiding inaccessibly in file folders (real paper ones or on a hard drive). Without tags to filter what you need to look for, the grouping of the notebooks to filter out what you DON’T want to dig through, as well as searches to pinpoint a specific target, all that information we tend to collect was either useless or just too time consuming to scan through manually to find anything. Eyestrain, paper cuts, paper everywhere! I think this is where Evernote is at it’s finest.

That said, Evernote (to me) seriously sucks at APPLYING that data in any usable way when it comes to relating the individual notes in an organized manner. For example, I’m into writing novels and screenplays. Evernote makes it too awesomely easy to grab whatever device is at hand to jot a random scene or character idea just as it pops into my head. There are no end of ways you can throw an idea at Evernote and they all magically collect in the right place by just tagging the note with the project name. But … once enough of these ideas collect to the point I actually want to start writing, there is absolutely NO way in Evernote to start organizing these notes so that the cards on the screen begin to look like the outline of an actual story. For a brief moment I tried playing with multi-level numbering schemes prefixing my note titles to get them to fall right, but that got old (and insane) very fast.

scrivenerScrivener is my favorite way of organizing these ideas together … all those lovely index cards to drag and drop until a story pops out. It’s amazing! But … getting ideas from Evernote to Scrivener is a major PITA, and disheartening to do one at a time after I’ve taken all that time to collect them in Evernote in the first place. To migrate them piecemeal is like going back to chipping words in stone again (and we all remember that, right?).

And once you do, how do you keep Evernote and Scrivener synced up? If I want to jot another note, Evernote is still the go-to app, because Scrivener seriously sucks for not being on all my devices–they don’t have anything for my lovely little iPad, and its data exports don’t play nice with ANY other app. How do I know which notes are not yet in Scrivener?

So I just stop using Evernote for that project for fear of losing the ideas amongst all the others.

This is where the Evernote fanatics start grumbling and warming up their keyboards to defend their undying love for Evernote and how it “wasn’t designed for anything but to hoard data and find it later, NOT for anything else,” blah blah blah. I’ve never seen people so zealously defend what an application is NOT supposed to do, as if the original posters they’re attacking (and there are bunches of them, just like me) were threatening the American Way of Life or something.

@MiscEvernoteZealot: We’re not going to harm YOUR lovingly hoarded mound of data by asking for a new output feature. Relax. I understand what Evernote wasn’t designed for (I’ve read it enough on their forums). Evernote does what it does very well indeed, thank you very much. I still use it for all that …1200+ notes so far and growing. I’m with you on that.

But I can typically generate 1000+ notes (or twice that) for one story project alone (and I’m gleaning most other writers often do, too). And writers are not exactly a “splinter” crowd (ask any publisher or agent. And although I WISH Evernote would take a moment and add a feature to manually sort our notes, I’m aware they just won’t.

Meanwhile, Scrivener, as awesomely gorgeous and perfect as it is, has been promising an iOS app for over three years now, which must be a record for an iPad app (Guys … hire another developer or three already; the investment will return quickly–just look at your forums). So Scrivener is just about out of the picture for me as a writing tool, as well.gingko

Lately this has become something of a quest … minus the swords, dragons and fair maidens (dammit), but with plenty of wizards! One of them bade me go forth and find an odd yet-little-known creature known as Gingko (mispelling deliberate). This turned out to be a browser-based writing tool that turns Scrivener on its ear, offering an elegantly simple technique to amass almost any genre of writing project. I’m hesitant, having never tried to write a project fully on a browser before, but I love how I can access it from anywhere, and it looks every bit as easy as Scrivener at organizing scenes and ideas into stories. I’ll let you know how this goes! =)

But, alas, it isn’t that lovely data-bucket I can drop notes in randomly from every direction like Evernote is. With all the gadgets Evernote has popped out lately–scanners for business cards, OCR, searchable PDFs, searchable handwriting; you name it . . . you’d think a simple thing like manual note sorting would be a cinch for them.

They’re so focused on the IN, they’re barely looking at the OUT of it at all.

Why bother collecting all this information if we’re not going to actually USE it somehow in an organized fashion? A skeptical side of me is beginning to wonder if they’re collecting all of our data for themselves, instead of for us… just sayin’

 
 

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The Job versus The Dream (Wake and Cue Orchestra)

The Job versus The Dream (Wake and Cue Orchestra)

How many of you find yourself in this place: Trying to figure out if your Dream Job is more a job than a dream?

I know, it’s a silly question really … unless you’re a college student wrestling with her choice of major. Or a writer wondering if she truly wants to court MGM … or Barnes and Noble. Hollywood or New York. Movies or books. Working for someone else (a Job) or in my coffee shop (a Dream).

I’ve been paddling around in this boat, seemingly in circles, as the current of time pulls me inexorably into my senior year in college, and my life into that phase where it’s either put up, or shut up.

Most of my life I’ve spent outlining, pondering, daydreaming, brainstorming, scribbling, writing, revising and agonizing over stories I thought would one day become novels. It’s what I’ve known since I was a wee tykette, after discovering  libraries as safe havens for geeks, where bullies feared to tread (all that knowledge threatening to dissolve the ignorance that made them who they are).

My eyes glittering, surrounded by endless shelves of books, each one full of . . . Potential: knowledge and experience and stories my quiet little life had never dreamt of. I began to consume books like potato chips.

The science fiction and fantasy section was an especially tasty place to begin ingesting the material in that place, but then I branched out to other parts of the Dewey Decimal System when I found a plethora of other fun things to learn, things that made my classes at the time seem horribly boring in comparison (I’ll never understand how public education manages to make something like History so indigestible). I would inexpertly regurgitate bits of things I’d learned on my own, as little stories in the margins of spiral notebooks meant for more academic scribblings–then full sections in the back when the margins became too constricting.

I got hooked on writing very early. But did I ever decide what I would ever do with it? What industry, if any, would I pursue with this practice? How would I apply myself?

Like I mentioned, the novel had always been my default target, simply because it was what I’d known. It wasn’t until well-meaning peers and fellow students started reading my stuff and commented on the how “visual” the scenes were that I began to consider switching to moviemaking. What an intriguing idea . . . !

Several years ago I actually finished one of the many story ideas I’ve been collecting (I counted 98 separate story folders on my hard drive recently) as an actual “Novel” . . . (wake and cue orchestra). It became a 650 page monster, full of quirky fun dastardly bastards and unappreciated heroes. My first readers seemed to love the thing, but it was far too big for a first time author to publish. I marked it down as a practice exercise, shelved it and moved on.

Then came this new love affair with the movie genre and all its lovely constriction: 120 pages maximum (unless you’re Kevin Kostner), one page per minute of movie time, no internal thoughts, everything is visual, out in the open. I thought to myself (rather unvisually), “there’s what I need to battle my page-monsters! I’ll write movies!”; the constrictions of the form actually turning me on.

I worked my way through an Associates degree with that idea in mind, then my Junior year, proudly proclaiming myself a Film major. I was ready to write a dozen Blockbusters all by myself, once I truly learned how.

Only it’s not quite that simple. If it ever was …

Everything in life has a trade off. This one has a doozie: When you work in film, you can make a boatload of money, if you’re a success, but you don’t get to call any shots. Not one.

The moment you write a story and sell it in Hollywood, it’s not yours anymore. Unless your name holds a ton of cred, like perhaps Stephen King–and even he has horror stories of his own with Hollywood, which I find deliciously ironic–you lose any right to the story. You typically lose any revising rights, as well. If you’re smart, you turn your back on the story altogether, because Hollywood loves to rewrite, repurpose, revamp, reimagine . . . until the original story can no longer be resuscitated.

Very few stories make it through Hollywood intact, unless the story has already grabbed up a serious cult following in the form of . . . wait for it . . . a novel!

Think J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkein, or PG Wodehouse (and most of Stephen King). New authors, like myself, won’t be found on that list … yet. We’re on that other list, the one that’s titled “bend over and get ready for unwanted collaborationism.”

Hollywood is a hugely collaborative industry. Everyone who has anything to do with a movie (look at the credits … there are thousands!) has an opportunity to tweak the story, if not grab a pipe wrench and twist it into something else entirely.

Novelists, on the other hand, get to call all the shots. Sure, they make far less money generally. “You can’t make a living writing books – but you can make a killing,” I’ve heard said (anyone know by whom?). But when I write one it stays written. And I don’t have to move to L.A., where you basically must live to make it as a screenwriter. When would I have time to write if I’m stuck in traffic all the time?

So, here I am, asking myself the Big Question: Is Film really where I want to be? I have a year to figure it out. In the meantime, I’ll be here in my coffee shop, writing … something. A good story, I hope.

A good story will work anywhere.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Bloggie Bits, Miki Bits, Writerbits

 

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Where the Words Have Gone . . .

This is a response to a writers prompt that I found particularly apropos at this moment in time, when I feel I have been suffering from not writing. The prompt is from How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua, who asks you to define your “native tongue,” the voice by which you speak–or, in my case, write.

There are other tongues we use in other situations. Sometimes they don’t get along with each other. This is their story . . .

I find my native tongue when I’m writing most freely. When I feel I have nothing to say, consciously, but the words flow from my fingers faster than I can barely keep up with. This is when I feel like I am but a channel for my writing, as if I am a secretary for a Universe of Creativity that I have the privilege of serving, when I can.

This is also the part of me I miss the most when I have to switch “tongues,” forced by my classes to write essay, or delve into that very PhD-ness of regurgitated research writing that I so despise, where the beautiful pictures in my head dim and go out in a fizzle of inauthenticity. I feel as if creativity is at an all time low at these times, but since I’m forced to do it by instructor decree, I put myself to it—after a spate of severe procrastination, during which I can do no writing at all.

At these times, I feel as if my mind is forcing itself into a place, changing its complete paradigm, to become something else, something foreign. If I try to write in my “native tongue” during this time, I’m conflicted by the stress of the deadline to write in that strange unwanted place instead. Words of my own choosing will not come, my mind is still reeling attempting to spin up enthusiasm to do this horrible bidding. Instead of simply getting it over with, the horror of writing from this unknown place makes me find ways to hide from it, to do anything but that. Only sheer panic and a deadline less than a day hence will force me to get through that gauntlet and get the work done, only to spend days recovering my voice, my tongue again, though it feels diminished from the stress of it.

My native tongue is light, silly, hopefully funny to others—if I can manage it. Often I need to find others’ voices, funny light voices to read in print to remind me of my own, to give me dungeonpermission to write in my own voice again, a voice I’ve hidden away safely in a dungeon until the natural cataclysm of the essay or research paper has passed.

Seeing it this way I think it must be a sensitive thing, something I must protect at all cost. I would have thought this would bring on castle-thick stone walls of writers block that I would have to scale to … but I’ve never allowed myself to believe in writers’ block. It’s more a writers’ avoidance, avoidance of the chair in which I sit to write. I know once I sit there my fingers will find something to do. But will it be worthy?

That worthiness to write, to channel the creativity I most yearn for … THAT is the thing that will keep me from sitting down. From starting.

I am in that place now. I will make a pilgrimage to the library, I will find a book by Jenny Lawson or David Sedaris and let them lead me back to my native tongue, that silly place where my creativity resides. I will lock my essayists brain in the dungeon instead, where it belongs.

The creative universe calls to me.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Bloggie Bits, Miki Bits

 

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Am I Fearless? Eek! . . . Vote for Me Anyway @ #FearlessPSU

Am I Fearless? Eek! . . .  Vote for Me Anyway @ #FearlessPSU

My awesome university, the one that is helping me to reinvent my life–to finally follow my passion as a writer–is hosting a contest to celebrate fearlessness on campus. It’s a lovely campaign to instill pride in our strive, to recognize in ourselves that we can follow our dreams and succeed, that we can be the best possible version of ourselves if we but believe in ourselves.

For my part, going back to college is the keystone of a lifelong passion to write, a dream that once sat on a shelf to make room for a career that seemed more “successful,” but was not my dream. Thanks to another hiccup in my life (which I don’t want to talk about . . . yet), all kinds of wondrous things spilled out of my heart to be collected, rediscovered and placed back in the focus where they belong.

Writing is my passion, my dream. It is who I am. I am fearlessly, doggedly reaching for that dream again. There is no more motivating place to do this than on a campus surrounded by thousands of people following their dreams. It is here where my mentors and teachers and peers come to goad and teach and learn their craft. It is here where my dream will take shape.

Help us celebrate our fearlessness. Visit www.fearlesspsu.com and click like for those of us who are making our dreams come true. (And here is mine). =)

Perhaps we can inspire you to find the life you’ve always wanted, too. Join us on a campus near you!

There’s room for everyone’s dreams.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Bloggie Bits, Miki Bits

 

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